Archive for the ‘Online Genealogy’ Category

Important notice for purchasers of Online State Resources for Genealogy

Online State Resources for Genealogy contains links to thousands of indexes and images of original records that genealogists can use in the course of their research. Of course, the mutable nature of the Internet means that sites will come and go, pages will change, and resources will be added. Keeping up with all of these changes, and continuing to add newly-discovered resources, is a daunting task. But it is a task that I have committed myself to–continuously updating the listings over time.

Understanding this from the beginnings of the e-book, I promised all registered purchasers a complimentary update. To register, all you have to do is send a message to an email provided in the Introduction.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake.

Because I have not yet completed the next edition, I did not see the need to periodically check the email account over the past few months. Apparently the email account was marked inactive and all of the registration emails were deleted. I have remedied the situation for this edition, and will be finding a better method of registration for the next edition.

If you have purchased Online State Resources for Genealogy, please take a minute to send a new message to the registration email address provided in the Introduction. All registered purchasers will receive a complimentary copy of the next edition.

I have been working on the next edition and should have it completed soon. Many new resources and updated resources have already been added.

If you have not yet purchased the ebook, you can find reviews at the following sites:

Harold Henderson, CG, “More on line records from Michael Hait,” Midwestern Microhistory blog, posted 10 February 2011 ( : accessed 9 July 2012).

Thomas Macentee, “Review – Online State Resources for Genealogy,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 22 February 2011 ( : accessed 9 July 2012).

Craig Manson, “Book Review: Online State Resources,” Geneablogie blog, posted 5 February 2011 ( : accessed 9 July 2012).

George G. Morgan & Drew Smith, “The Genealogy Guys Podcast #219 – 2011 April 9,” The Genealogy Guys Podcast, posted 10 April 2011 ( : accessed 9 July 2012).

Marian Pierre-Louis, “Book Review: Online State Resources for Genealogy by Michael Hait,” Marian’s Roots and Rambles blog, posted 30 January 2011 ( : accessed 9 July 2012).

Randy Seaver, “Book Review: Online State Resources for Genealogy,” Genea-Musings blog, posted 3 February 2011 ( : accessed 9 July 2012).


The WikiTree Honor Code

My thanks to Dr. Bill Smith for bringing this to my attention by writing about the Code.[1]

I will admit that I rarely use collaborative genealogy sites. Nothing against the sites themselves–it just does  not often fit into my research plan. First, I have little time to research my own family and do not use online family trees for clients unless I am completely out of other options. Second, the online trees just don’t generally meet the standards of proof that I try to meet.

One of the leading collaborative sites in the market today–WikiTree–has recently instituted an “Honor Code.” This Honor Code is the first attempt of which I am aware that tries to bring research standards to online family trees. This nine-point Code addresses ethical concerns such as courtesy and privacy, and legal concerns such as copyright. In terms of research standards, it includes the following important point:

VIII. We cite sources. Without sources we can’t objectively resolve conflicting information.[2]

This one point in the WikiTree Honor Code actually addresses two of the five points of the Genealogical Proof Standard: that we cite our sources (obviously) and that we reconcile conflicting evidence caused by conflicting information.

I would like to commend the WikiTree team for making this first step in supporting genealogy research standards. I would also like to invite other collaborative genealogy sites to follow their lead to help make online genealogies more reliable in the future. This will do much to raise the overall quality of online genealogies.


[1] Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith, “I support the WikiTree Wiki Genealogist Honor Code,” Springfield Genealogy Examiner, posted 29 June 2012 ( : accessed 1 July 2012).

[2] “Wiki Genealogist Honor Code,” WikiTree ( : accessed 1 July 2012).

Using’s “New Search”

Periodically, comments will be posted on one mailing list or another, or some blog or another, by an experienced genealogist, in which they express trouble with’s “New Search” and try desperately to get back to the “Old Search.”

For the life of me, I cannot understand these feelings. I have been using the “New Search” since its debut a few years ago, and find it far superior to the old search engine. I can only suppose that the problems stem from unfamiliarity with the more powerful settings.

When most people see the “New Search,” this is what they see:

I will admit that this does look quite unbearable to use. However, you will notice the “Show Advanced” link at the bottom, next to the “Search” button.

When you click on this link, the appearance of the search box changes dramatically.

To get the best search results, click that box in the upper left corner, “Match all terms exactly.” Checking this box changes the settings under each box from “Use default settings” to “Restrict to exact.” (Don’t worry, you can limit this.)

When you clink on the “Restrict to exact” link in various boxes, you get the following options:

First & Middle Name(s): “Restrict to exact matches and

  • Phonetic matches
  • Names with similar meanings or spellings
  • Records where only initials are recorded
Last Name: “Restrict to exact matches and
  • Soundex matches
  • Phonetic matches
  • Names with similar meanings or spellings

Location: “Restrict to this place exactly” “Or restrict to just

  • county/adjacent counties
  • state
  • state/adjacent states
  • country

[Note: You must have a county specified in this box in order for these options to appear.]

Wildcards (* or ?) will not work with any of these options. They only work when “Restrict to exact” is active. However, these options do allow for more flexible searching, without requiring wildcards. On first name, for example, a search for Anna with the “similar meaning or spellings” box checked will also return Ann, Anne, Annie, Hannah, etc.

Another complaint with “New Search” is that the results seem random. This is also a quick fix.

The default setting is view results by relevance, which appears as follows:

Here you see that the results from numerous record groups appear.

However, you can change the results to appear by record group. This is particularly helpful, for example, if you know that the person you are searching lived from 1863 through 1921 in New York. You can use a little genealogical reasoning to skip the record groups before 1863 and after 1921, and those that do not concern New York.

To make this change, you just have to click on the drop-down menu in the upper right next to “View”, and change “Sorted by Relevance” to “Summarized by Category.”

You can then go through and select each potentially relevant record group one-by-one. This, of course, limits the results to those in each individual record group. You can also make changes to the specific search terms within each record group. Just use your browser’s “Back” button to return to this main search results page to access other record groups.

I hope that this brief tutorial helps those who are having problems, and I welcome any questions, if I have not addressed any other issues with “New Search.” I believe that you will find–like myself–that the current search engine is far superior to the “Old Search” that everyone seems to love. website launches

I have mentioned the books Evidence! and Evidence Explained on numerous occasions in this blog. These two books by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, have highly influenced my approach to record analysis and source citation.

Today, 1 April 2012, Ms. Mills announced the launch of a new website based on the books:

Across the past year or so, many of you have queried the genealogical mailing lists, asking when the 2nd edition of Evidence Explained would be available in a downloadable format. The wait is over. has now launched—not just as a vehicle for providing electronic downloads of an updated 2nd edition of EE and the QuickSheets, but also as an educational venue and a forum for issues relating to citation, evidence analysis, and record usage and interpretation.[1]

Through this site, for the very first time, one can download electronic editions of not only the 2009 2nd Edition of Evidence Explained, but all of Ms. Mills’s Quicksheets also published by Genealogical Publishing Company. All of these reference works should be on every serious genealogists’ bookshelf. These electronic editions now provide a means to have them with you everywhere you go–even those research trips where you just couldn’t.

As she mentions in her announcement, the site also includes several forums, i.e. “Citation Issues,” “Evidence Analysis Issues,” and “Record Usage and Interpretation.” These forums already have several discussions that are worth participating in, and, if you have a question of your own, you should post it to the forums for advice from other scholarly genealogists.

Visit and explore, and if you do not have these books in your library, get them now!

For more on Evidence Explained, read the following posts:


[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills (email address for private use), to APG Members Mailing List, e-mail, 1 April 2012, “Electronic edition: Evidence Explained.”

Looking Back on ’11, Forward to ’12

New Year’s Day is a time for reflection on the past, and a time for assessing one’s goals and future plans.

Since I started this blog, I have used it as a way to gauge my professional progress. You can read about my goals from previous years in these earlier posts:

Last year I did not set public goals for myself. I think I meant to do so, but somehow neglected to write the post. Due to this neglect, I will instead note some of my accomplishments in 2011, and set some goals for myself in 2012. (Much more like what I did in the first post above, for 2009/2010.)

I am a bit taken back when I look at what I have accomplished this past year. I managed so much more than I imagined possible a year ago. In no particular order, these are some of the accomplishments of which I am personally most proud:

1. At the end of January 2011, I published the ebook Online State Resources for Genealogists. Within less than a week I had sold about 200 copies, which is far more than I expected. I originally planned to have an update prepared by mid-summer, but this has not yet been completed. I will be working hard this month to have the update finished by the end of January.

2. Also in January, I was reelected to another 2-year stint as Vice-President of the National Capital Area Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

3. In March I completed the 18-month ProGen Study Group educational program. This was very helpful in networking with other “transitional” genealogists over the course of the program. We all certainly learned a lot from each other, and from our mentor J. Mark Lowe, CG.

4. Though I was unable to attend the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Charleston, South Carolina, in May, it was still a momentous occasion for me. It marked the debut of my publication Genealogy at a Glance: African American Genealogy Research (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2011), and the announcement of the winners of the 2010 International Society of Family History Writers & Editors Excellence in Writing Competition. My article, “Learning from Genealogical Failure,” won 1st Prize in the “Newspaper Columns” category.

5. In May, amid a very active blogging discussion concerning professional genealogy, I renamed, revamped, and relaunched this blog. It was originally called “Tricks of the Tree” when I started blogging in 2008, but my blogging was sporadic at best: 7 posts in 2008, 19 posts in 2009, and just 4 posts in 2010. Since the relaunch as “Planting the Seeds” in May, I have written 123 posts!

6. In June I again attended the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University (Birmingham, Alabama), completing Elizabeth Shown Mills’s “Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis” course.

7. In July 2011 I achieved my primary professional goal by becoming a Certified Genealogist(sm) through the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

8. From May through October I worked with the National Park Service researching a community of slaves that once lived on Monocacy National Battlefield. The results of my research are currently being developed into an exhibit that will debut in January 2012, and research is expected to continue in 2012 and 2013.

9. In November the Association of Professional Genealogists announced that I had been elected to the APG Board of Directors, for the Southeast Region for 2012-2013.

10. At the end of November I published my first instructional book, aimed at genealogical lecturers: Show ‘N’ Tell: Creating Effective and Attractive Genealogy Presentations. Unlike my previous self-published books, this book does not contain transcriptions or indexes of record sources. Completing the writing was a major accomplishment for me.

And now my goals for 2012:

1. Continue to design new presentations. I already have quite a few presentations scheduled for 2012, including two lectures at the 2012 National Genealogical Society annual conference, and four lectures at the 2012 Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University. I have all-day workshops of four lectures each scheduled in Oklahoma and Tennessee, and single lectures scheduled in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I also have two webinars for Legacy Family Tree scheduled, and an appearance on the “Research at the National Archives and Beyond” Internet radio show with host Bernice Bennett on However, I would like to create more new presentations, so that I am not merely giving the same presentations over and over again. (You can see all of my currently scheduled future engagements using the Calendar in the right sidebar.)

2. Complete some books that have been sitting on my shelf. I have made significant progress on several books, but have not yet finished them. One of them contains transcriptions of Civil War draft exemptions in Baltimore city, Maryland. Other subjects include St. Mary’s County, Maryland, tax papers, and Prince George’s County, Maryland, estate inventories. All of these books have been sitting on my shelf.

3. Finish my updated edition of Online State Resources for Genealogy. I have made significant progress to this end, but I really want to take a few days and get this update finished. This involves not only adding new resources, but also a redesign. I also want to make an edition to be used in e-readers. While I am at it, I would also like to make the updates semiannual rather than annual (so hopefully another update in June or July).

4. Get started on some new books. I have a series of books in mind that I have barely started working on, but I really need to hanker down and hammer them out. I won’t reveal the subject of this series yet, but I believe that it will be greatly appreciated when complete.

5. Have an article accepted for publication in an academic journal. I have two case studies that I am writing up for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, and another that I intend for The Genealogist. I also have an article in mind for a historical journal, probably the Maryland Historical Magazine. In 2012 I would really like to dedicate myself to completing and submitting these articles.

6. Get better at time management. A few months ago, I created a simplified weekly schedule that would provide time for research and writing. So far I have not kept it for even a single week. I really need to get better at this–I am just not very organized when it comes to spending my time productively.

7. Write some magazine articles. I would really like to publish more magazine articles this year than I did in 2011. The popular magazines have room for less advanced descriptions of records and research methodology. I have also been considering writing an article on genealogy (in general) for a non-genealogy magazine. I have not yet decided which magazine would be best.

8. Submit to genealogy writing competitions. There are several writing competitions happening this year. If I can actually write enough entries, I would love to enter them all!

9. Attend the new Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. Registration for GRIP opens in February 2012. The Institute will be held from Sunday, 22 July 2012 through Friday, 27 July 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am particularly interested in the course “Advanced Research Methods” taught by Thomas W. Jones, Claire Bettag, and Rick Sayre.

10. Find some time to research my family for a change! After all, this is why I got into this mess in the first place. 🙂

Happy New Year!

Follow Friday: More on the Genealogy Paradigm Shift

It is Follow Friday! This is a blogging meme in which authors recommend other blogs, websites, repositories, or anything else. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will spotlight different resources for professional and aspiring professional genealogists each week: not only genealogy-related, but also others of interest.

Two weeks ago, I posted “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?” A valuable discussion has occurred both in the comments on that post–which I would recommend that everyone read–and in posts on other blogs. To say the least, not everyone agreed with my observations, and in fact some people read more into the post than I intended, even somehow coming away with an impression that I disapproved of or somehow blamed the online community that I have spent literally hundreds of unpaid hours working to support and help develop.

This Follow Friday, I would like to point folks to some of these other posts. Almost all of them do provide a constructive discussion of the subjects that I broached:

And last but not least, a post that I feel deserves special mention:

In this post, she promises a few blog posts specifically addressing different topics I had discussed. The first of these posts is “What have you done for me lately?” and discusses genealogical societies. She captures a major concern from the point of view of societies. I recommend that all members of the online community read this post and those that will surely follow.

Happy New Year!

Societies, Communities, and Gatekeepers, oh my!

Now available – “Library Edition” of “Online State Resources for Genealogy”

Many public libraries now offer e-books to their patrons. For self-published authors such as myself, this causes a bit of a dilemma. Do we forego the library market altogether, or risk the loss of income from library patrons who copy the book file to their own computers? (This is, of course, a violation of copyright.)

Adobe, who really helped to usher in the e-book revolution with the development of its Portable Document Format (PDF), also offers a solution for Digital Rights Management. These files are read with the free Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software rather than the standard Adobe Reader. Adobe Digital Editions can be downloaded from According to the Adobe website, Digital Editions “works in conjunction with Adobe Digital Experience Protection Technology (ADEPT), a hosted service that provides publishers with copy protection in both retail and library environments.”

Online State Resources for Genealogy (currently #36 on’s all-time best-selling e-books) has now been converted to a “Library Edition.” This new edition utilizes the Adobe PDF format with Digital Editions in order to provide a version of this e-book that can be safely offered by libraries to their patrons.

For more details, including purchasing information, visit—library-edition/18777978.

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